Security Market Segment LS
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 10:52

Point-of-sale breaches continue to make headlines

There is no intent to implicate MacDonalds There is no intent to implicate MacDonalds

There are 15.7 million search references to point-of-sale (PoS) breaches – many of those are in the past year. Lessons have not been learned.

Christopher Strand, PCIP, Sr. Director of Compliance and Governance for Carbon Black, a specialist in protecting end-points including PoS terminals has provided its list of six reasons why POS is a high profile target and will remain so.

Although it’s still early in 2016, already we are seeing reports of PoS breaches around the world. This trend is likely to continue as the year progresses, due to some contributing factors.

1. The pressure to adopt EMV* technology will continue to draw attention. Although most statistics point to full EMV adoption not taking place until well into 2017 or 2018, attackers will be free to take advantage of retailers in the process of implementing these devices. Rushed or partial deployments that leave the PoS infrastructure unprepared to run EMV properly, along with customer and merchant confusion, will make this situation ripe for savvy attackers.

2. Attackers will continue to target ill-prepared PoS systems. Although the vulnerabilities are well-documented, organisations continue to struggle with their security hygiene, so that issues such as lax security configurations and weak passwords will leave many vulnerable to attack. As a result, cybercriminals will continue to breach PoS environments using variants of the same malware that we’ve seen used for past breaches.

3. The continued use of unsupported popular PoS operating systems will also leave merchants vulnerable to attack. During the past two years, three popular Windows operating systems – two of which are directly related to many major PoS platforms (Win XP and XP embedded) – reached their end-of-life. The vulnerabilities of these systems are still being discovered, creating another dimension of IT security risk that many merchants are failing to consider seriously.

4. Mobile payments and e-commerce widen the threat window. New ‘card not present’ scenarios may present unfamiliar threats to organisations, and 2016 is likely to see an increasing number of threats targeting other types of payment systems.

5. Increasingly complex regulatory environments will present new challenges to merchants. We can expect to see more regulations, fines and other consequences associated with payment systems as the community responds to continued threats. This is something for every merchant or payment provider to consider, and it may be time to re-assess their security policies and ability to enforce these. Many who think they are not subject to the scrutiny of particular regulations and mandates may find they are now accountable.

6. Finally, an increasing awareness of security will lead to more sophisticated PoS malware. As more merchants embrace the inevitability of cyber-attacks, malware authors will boost their efforts to stay under the radar and outflank security tools. New PoS malware will target different segments of an organisation’s environment that may be outside the conventional areas of attack.

While this approach is not as fast and easy for the attacker, it is more difficult to detect. Malware authors are taking advantage of known exploit vectors found across enterprise systems, as well as intelligence on what has worked against PoS and payment systems.

Clearly PoS and payment providers will need to build allegiances and share information more than ever in 2016.

* EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) is a technical standard for smart payment cards and for payment terminals and automated teller machines that can accept them.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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